Like previous Onkyo receivers, setup is simplified by the Audyssey MultEQ automatic calibration feature. This is a complete godsend if you’re new to this home cinema lark, as it saves you the hassle of setting all the channel levels and distances yourself. Using a setup mic that plugs into the front panel and emitting a series of test tones, it checks your system and sets the optimum levels, leaving no stone unturned. Once the levels have been set, Audyssey’s Dynamic EQ and Dynamic Volume keep sound it at its best no matter the volume, and you really can hear the difference they make during low-level listening.
We haven’t heard a bad Onkyo receiver yet, and the TX-NR807 certainly doesn’t let the side down. Like its stable mates past and present, this unit’s greatest asset is its sheer power and wallpaper-stripping ferocity. Slip a disc like Transformers in the tray, turn it up loud and the action set pieces will almost rip your head off. Gunshots, explosions, clashing metal, thumping, robotic footsteps – the NR807 blasts them out with exhilarating aggression.
Helping the Onkyo achieve this level of potency is some formidable bass work. Bottom-end effects are taut, fulsome and far from boomy. But it’s not all crash, bang, wallop – it conducts the soundstage with the sort of poise and control that Simon Rattle would be proud of, particularly when it comes to rear channel steering and effect placement. As a result the Onkyo achieves a sense of space and scale that is breathtaking to behold.
Dialogue is clearly articulated too, whether it’s the mellifluous tones of Optimus Prime or Megan Fox’s softer feminine drawl. Even during busy action scenes the clear channel separation gives the actors the space to communicate despite the cacophony going on around them.
Any flaws are minor. It doesn’t quite coax out the very finest scraps of background detail during quiet passages as well as, say, the TX-NR906. And invigorating though it is, you do occasionally come away from a session with the NR807 feeling a bit frazzled from all that aggression and in-your-face intensity. But if big, brutal cinema sonics are your bag, the Onkyo will be your friend for life.
And anyway, if you want to reveal the Onkyo’s softer side, simply switch to stereo (Pure Audio mode of course) and play a gentle tune like Blue In Green by Miles Davis, the sonic equivalent a hot bath. Warm, appropriately languid but relayed with plenty of detail, you simply don’t expect such a beast to suddenly slip on the kid gloves and deliver a silky musical performance like this.
There’s just a hint of asperity in Miles’ high notes, which is the Onkyo’s harder side poking through, but after going twelve rounds with it in the movie ring, it’s pleasing to see it doing the sensitive stuff too – a bit like Joe Calzaghe going on Strictly Come Dancing, but with better timing.
On this evidence, it’ll be criminal if Onkyo doesn’t get another Christmas number one. Like the TX-SR607 before it, the NR807 delivers phenomenal sound quality with poise and power in spades, making for an unforgettable movie-viewing experience. Yes, its relentless, unsubtle ear bashing won’t suit all tastes, but those who like their movies loud will go nuts for it.
It’s also easy to use, simple to install and, as AV receivers go, it looks great. But what’s most impressive is the ridiculous amount of features you get for a fairly reasonable outlay, which puts it firmly in ‘must-buy’ territory.
Score in detail